The Genealogy Sojourner: Public Fame Private Pain

Book Cover For Clyde Arbuckle History Of San Jose

Unlikely Connection

One was an inspiring teacher, preservationist, and celebrated chronicler of Silicon Valley's storied past. The other was larger than life both on and off the screen, whose path from scandal ridden movie star to redemption was cut short by an untimely death. Who were these men and what could they possibly have in common? Ultimately they were family, half brothers, who influenced San Jose's illustrious past. Their names were William Clyde Arbuckle and Roscoe Conkling Arbuckle.

The Arbuckle And Gordon Families: Who Were They?

William Clyde Arbuckle's skill as a researcher would come in handy while trying to decipher the often confusing connections, common names, and tragedies of his own family tree. It begins with the patriarch William Goodrich Arbuckle and his first wife Mary Elizabeth Gordon. They had at six children that I could find: Lola, Nora, Arthur, William H, Mary, and Roscoe.

Mary Gordon passed away in 1898 in Santa Anna, CA and William G remarried to a woman named Mary Ellen Gordon in San Jose in 1900. She had previously been married to Joseph Daniel Gordon and they had at least seven children: Nellie, Stella, Mary, George, Charles, Frank, and Joseph. To further complicate matters however May's first husband Joseph was likely married a second time and they had three daughters: Rhoda, Irene, and Gladys.

William G and Mary Ellen actually had two sons: Glenn G Arbuckle who died in 1902 and William Clyde Arbuckle who passed away in 1994.

But that wasn't the end of the historical connections. The elder Joseph Gordon was the grandson of Andrew Jackson Gordon and his wife Margaret, two Donnor Party survivors. Not to be left out Alfred St John, son of Nora Arbuckle and her husband Walter St John, was a noted actor in his own right before his tragic death from a heart attack in 1963.

To gain further insight into these fascinating families and learn more of their stories, try the following:

  1. Genealogy Websites: There are a host of sites available to aid in your research. Here are three to check out:
  2. Newpaper Websites: The exploits of the Arbuckle and Gordon families are detailed in numerous newspaper articles. Here are a few interesting titles:
  3. Final Resting Places And Legacy: What ultimately became of the families individual earthly remains and how their impact reaches impacts us today.

Recommended Reads

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San José Public Library has other resources so you too can do your own investigations, share the results with family and friends, and discover even famous people can have a shrouded past.

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